Greece short on al­lies

Greek PM faces ex­as­per­ated euro part­ners with days to avoid ruin

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD -

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras has stretched his EU part­ners’ pa­tience to the limit with months of mis­steps and con­tra­dic­tory moves and now, hav­ing just four days to save his coun­try from ruin, is find­ing his list of al­lies is short.

Even po­ten­tially sym­pa­thetic south­ern Euro­peans have be­come skep­ti­cal to­ward the 40year-old left­ist rad­i­cal.

France’s So­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande has emerged as a po­ten­tial me­di­a­tor be­tween Greece and its cred­i­tors, but he’s un­likely to over­come stiff Ger­man-led re­sis­tance to cut­ting Greece yet more slack.

Tsipras swept to power in Jan­uary on prom­ises to bring an end to the hated spend­ing cuts he blamed for an eco­nomic de­pres­sion.

That would have re­quired ex­tract­ing far-reach­ing con­ces­sions from Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel and other Euro­pean lead­ers. But the in­ex­pe­ri­enced leader ap­par­ently failed to grasp the com­plex­i­ties of the Euro­pean Union.

Rather than tackle the de­tails of an eco­nomic plan to get new loans, as cred­i­tors wanted, Tsipras sought to con­vince other Euro­pean coun­tries to over­haul their fun­da­men­tal ap­proach to res­cu­ing Greece. He tried, for ex­am­ple, to con­vince them to stop fo­cus­ing on spend­ing cuts and loosen the terms of Greece’s ex­ist­ing loans.

What­ever the mer­its of his eco­nomic views, Tsipras failed to make po­lit­i­cal al­liances in Europe.

“One of the stick­ing points was that, right af­ter tak­ing of­fice, Alexis Tsipras went on a big tour of Europe to seek coali­tion part­ners, but within a very short pe­riod of time he scared off all his Euro­pean part­ners for var­i­ous rea­sons,” said Ju­lian Rap­pold, a Euro­pean pol­icy ex­pert at the Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions think-tank in Ber­lin.

Af­ter months of on-off talks, Tsipras shred­ded much of the re­main­ing good­will with his shock move last week to call a ref­er­en­dum on the terms cred­i­tors had of­fered and his de­ci­sion to cam­paign for a “no” vote.

The cred­i­tors say Greece must lay out a de­tailed re­form pro­gram if it hopes to get aid.

Merkel, a key fig­ure in five years of bailouts for Greece, notes the coun­try is only one of 19 eu­ro­zone democ­ra­cies whose views must be re­spected.

“We have shown a great deal of sol­i­dar­ity with Greece,” she said af­ter meet­ing Hol­lande on Mon- day.

“On the other hand, Europe can only keep to­gether and stand to­gether ... if ev­ery coun­try also takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for it­self.”

Hol­lande, mean­while, is try­ing to use France’s role as a driver of Euro­pean unity, its diplo­matic weight, and cul­tural affin­ity for Greece to find mid­dle ground.

That also helps Hol­lande fend off do­mes­tic chal­lenges from those who brought him to power on his own prom­ises to “fin­ish with aus­ter­ity” but feel he has be­trayed that ideal and hasn’t done enough to stand up to Merkel.

But Merkel’s po­si­tion en­joys sup­port from other fis­cally strong coun­tries in north­ern Europe such as the Nether­lands and Fin­land, and of­fi­cials in eastern Euro­pean coun­tries such as the three Baltic na­tions that have pushed through their own painful re­forms are sound­ing even tougher. They have long since be­come ex­as­per­ated by Athens’ of­ten-chaotic ne­go­ti­at­ing style and per­ceived foot-drag­ging on re­form plans.

“You know, there was a prom­ise for to­day. Then, they’re promis­ing for to­mor­row,” Lithua­nian Pres­i­dent Dalia Gry­bauskaite said af­ter Tsipras failed to pro­duce a de­tailed re­form blue­print at Tues­day’s emer­gency eu­ro­zone sum­mit. “For the Greek gov­ern­ment it’s ev­ery time ‘manana.”’


Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras de­liv­ers his speech at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Stras­bourg, eastern France, Wed­nes­day.

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